Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sagrada Familia Revisited

The tomb of architect
Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926)
My first drive-by visit to Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, was in may 1964. At the time, what is now an amazing basilica fully open to the public was a shell, an abandoned project of visionary architect Antoni Gaudi.

In 2008, my wife Esther and I toured the inside of the emerging sanctuary wearing hard hats and skirting the inner walls. We marveled at the potential magnificence and awaited the day when Gaudi's vision would become a worshiping space reality.

On June 24 of this year, we arrived once more in Barcelona and checked into the Hotel Sagrada Familia. We had two days to spend in one of our favorite cities. My bucket list of things to do in my life included attending Mass in the crypt beneath the basilica's main sanctuary and to finally visit the completed interior. 

Our hotel gave us a 10:30 a.m. Mass time that Friday. Next, I went to tiqets.com.sp to order tour tickets for later that day and received confirmation that we were good for the 2:45 p.m. tour. At the crypt, we discovered that the hotel's Mass time list was outdated. We accepted that outcome. Just a mistake. There would be another opportunity at 9 a.m. Saturday. Our cruise ship wouldn't sail until 4 p.m. that day.

Altar/sanctuary of the crypt
beneath the main basilica.

Getting set for our afternoon tour proved to be a greater challenge. I was unable to print the tickets at the hotel. Frantic, we moved to Plan B. On my phone we had visual proof of booking and paying for  tour. We went to the gate and showed the proof on our phone. The tour managers refused to accept that evidence. They insisted on having paper tickets. The time of our tour came . . . and passed with us still standing outside on the sidewalk. Neither "must do" items had disappeared from my bucket list.

Feeling as bummed out as we've ever been, we dragged ourselves back to Sagrada Familia the next morning. It was a glorious Saturday, but we hardly noticed. Before going to Mass, we inquired about a tour for that day. Sadly, the next tour opening would have made it too late for us to catch our ship.

Then, the miracle. I call it that; others can call it whatever they want.

An elderly priest celebrated the Mass that morning for a small congregation. Near the end of the service, I heard a voice saying, "Go talk to him after Mass." Normally, I would be too shy (ashamed) to beg for a personal favor. Immediately after Mass, I told the unsuspecting Esther, "Wait for me here," and followed the priest into the sacristy (vesting room). I took out a business card that identified me as a lay minister at a Catholic parish. After introducing myself, I told him our sad story of the day before. Without missing a beat, this kindly priest smiled and said, "Come with me."

I waved to Esther, who ran to meet me in the sacristy. We followed our new best friend--who turned out to be the pastor of the basilica--outside and down the block to the ornate Nativity entrance. Along the way, we passed the very same gatekeepers who had told us there was nothing they could do to get us inside. One after the other, they greeted the priest with a "buenos días" as they opened the gates.
The altar area is surrounded 
by a forest of trees (columns)
rise from floor to ceiling. 

Inside, the magnificent interior warmed us with its welcome. We spoke with the priest for a minute. He shook our hands and disappeared (as Jesus did after walking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as found in Luke 24:13-32).

Yes, both bucket list items were checked off that morning. I'll leave it to you to decide the moral to this story.

[My original Sagrada Familia post has been the most visited/read on this entire blog. Find it at the top left of this blog's home page or at  http://wisdomoflesmiserables.blogspot.com/2010/11/sagrada-familia-favorite-church-comes.html ]

[There's also a great documentary film on Netflix about the artists and builders who are at work today to bring this immense and sacred project to fulfillment.   For a look at my post about this documentary, go to  http://wisdomoflesmiserables.blogspot.com/2015/10/sagrada-documentary-film.html ]

(c) 2016 by Alfred J. Garrotto